DANC­ING QUEEN

She says the hip-sway­ing and shed­ding of in­hi­bi­tions haven’t come nat­u­rally, but Aoib­hin Gar­rihy has proved her­self the star of RTE’s dance show, says Sarah Caden. Her old-Hol­ly­wood looks and Doris Day charm are a breath of fresh air, but Aoib­hin isn’t su

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - STEPPING OUT -

When I meet Aoib­hin, she is sit­ting in front of a roar­ing open fire in the lounge of the West­bury Ho­tel, with a large cof­fee in front of her and un­de­ni­ably sleepy eyes. The night be­fore was Sun­day,

night. She had been in the stu­dio from 7am, had gone into the fi­nal-three line-up for the very first time, and then had to stay on set to film the com­pan­ion show, un­til mid­night. Aoib­hin con­cedes that it was a long day, but she’s sim­ply glad to have dodged elim­i­na­tion.

“My 92-year-old grandad was in the au­di­ence,” she says, “with his note­book, mak­ing sure they didn’t add up the votes in­cor­rectly. It might have killed him if I’d been knocked out. Imag­ine how aw­ful that would have been!”

So, at the time of writ­ing, Aoib­hin is still in with a chance of win­ning

She would seem, with her ap­par­ently ef­fort­less grace and charm, to be a con­tender, but we all know that there’s no pre­dict­ing the out­come on a show such as this.

Some­thing has hap­pened dur­ing Aoib­hin’s ‘ jour­ney’ on the danc­ing com­pe­ti­tion. To be­gin with, she was an also-ran, the girl who used to be on

who ticked the ‘former soap­star’ box in the line-up of celebri­ties. By week two, though, it be­came clear that there was some­thing about Aoib­hin. It wasn’t just her clean-cut blonde good looks, with their old-Hol­ly­wood, Doris Day vibe. It was that she seemed like the real deal — a real dancer, a proper star.

It is, per­haps, the fact that Aoib­hin wears her charisma lightly that is so ap­peal­ing. Out there on the dance floor, where there’s “nowhere to hide” as she puts it, fak­ing it is all too ob­vi­ous. And so is naked am­bi­tion — too ob­vi­ous, too un­set­tling and not some­thing that ra­di­ates from Aoib­hin. In­stead, fun­nily, she is am­biva­lent about her am­bi­tion, cau­tious about celebrity.

“The world now is all about the fame,

Danc­ing With The Stars With the Stars. City, Can’t Stop Danc­ing, Danc­ing Fair

and even on when they speak to us, they say, ‘OK, celebs, over here . . .’ and I cringe. There are no celebs in Ire­land re­ally, un­less you’re Bono, but aside from that, it’s ridicu­lous. It’s too small a place; we’re just pro­fes­sion­als. Un­less you’re a global su­per­star, you’re not a celebrity.”

There is the sense that Aoib­hin is too nor­mal or too nice to be in show busi­ness, while at the same time seem­ing so suited to it. In fact, when peo­ple tell her that they too want to be ac­tors, her ad­vice to them is al­ways the same: un­less you can’t live with­out it, don’t do it.

The thing is, though, that I can’t re­ally tell if Aoib­hin can’t live with­out it. She has that spe­cial some­thing, I think, that’s be­come ob­vi­ous on

if not the killer in­stinct. “The thing about me and act­ing it that I love it when I’m in it. I love do­ing it, but the in­dus­try is . . . ,” she stalls and shrugs. “Ugh, I don’t know, I’m not gone on it. I’m not the kind of per­son who likes to schmooze. You know, to get on, you have to be around a lot and I’m not great at that. I do my work and go back to Clare and walk the dogs and get away from it. There’s a clique there and I’m not part of it. I’m not able to be on all the time; per­form­ing when you’re not per­form­ing.”

Does Aoib­hin think this has worked to her detri­ment, pro­fes­sion­ally?

“I’d say so, prob­a­bly,” she replies. “You have to be pre­pared to re­ally im­merse your­self in it. Like, watch­ing Ruth Negga on the Os­cars she was three years ahead of me in col­lege, and as un­der­grad­u­ates we all looked to her as the hero. She im­mersed her­self in it and she had a hunger for it and she wanted it. That’s what it takes.”

Aoib­hin laughs heartily when I de­scribe her as a “good girl”. By her own ad­mis­sion, though, she is a con­sci­en­tious, dili­gent, can-do sort of per­son, al­ways ready for a chal­lenge, al­ways ready to do her best. She’s sort of a school-pre­fect type, but with a sprin­kling of show­biz star­dust, a com­bi­na­tion that is more win­ning than her nat­u­ral mod­esty will ad­mit.

“And I want to win [the con­test], of course I do,” she says. “It sneaks up on you the longer you’re in, but you have to keep

Stars, Danc­ing With The Stars, Danc­ing With The

it in per­spec­tive: it’s only a show, it’s only a glit­ter ball [prize]. And a few days after it’s over, I’ ll be in Kath­mandu, head­ing for Ever­est.”

I met Aoib­hin Gar­rihy once be­fore, in­ter­view­ing her as a young new­comer to al­most seven years ago. The Castle­knock na­tive wasn’t long out of study­ing drama in Trin­ity Col­lege, and she was thrilled with land­ing such a high-pro­file big job. She was warm and friendly and open about her back­ground in both Like, watch­ing Ruth Negga on the Os­cars she was three years ahead of me in col­lege, and as un­der­grad­u­ates we all looked to her as the hero. She im­mersed her­self in it and she had a hunger for it and she wanted it. That’s what it takes. Dublin and Co Clare. Both of her par­ents hail from that county, and her fa­ther was and re­mains in­volved in a fam­ily boatcruises busi­ness there with his brothers. She was in a rel­a­tively new re­la­tion­ship with Span­ish Point hote­lier John Burke and she was di­vid­ing her time between the cap­i­tal and Co Clare.

Fast-for­ward seven years and, all has changed, but not changed, ei­ther. These days, Aoib­hin is highly in­volved, with her fa­ther and two sis­ters, Doire­ann and Ailbhe, in run­ning the other fam­ily busi­ness, Dublin Bay Cruises. She left

after three years play­ing Neasa Dil­lon, when “it felt like the char­ac­ter and I were be­com­ing one and the same”, and, last Septem­ber, she and John Burke were mar­ried. She’s older and wiser, you might say, even if she doesn’t look it.

Aoib­hin’s life re­mains very much split

Fair City Fair City

between Clare and Dublin, though; that’s one thing that is un­al­tered, even by mar­riage.

“The na­ture of my job is that it of­ten comes in fits and starts, and I love that. And in terms of me and John, it means that we can see a lot of each other for months when I don’t have any­thing on and I can be in Clare, or then I’m work­ing and we barely see each other at all. My dad calls it a very con­tem­po­rary mar­riage,” Aoib­hin says with a laugh.

John is very tied, ob­vi­ously, to the Ar­mada Ho­tel in Clare, a fam­ily busi­ness he be­gan run­ning when his fa­ther be­came ill and sub­se­quently died. But work for Aoib­hin, as an actress, re­mains in Dublin.

“Our home in is En­nis,” she ex­plains, “but when I’m work­ing, it’s back to Mam and Dad and the full fridge in Dublin. And do­ing it’s lovely to come home and have the hot-wa­ter bot­tle in the bed and all those lovely things. At the mo­ment, I can’t imag­ine hav­ing it any other way. The drive up and down to En­nis doesn’t bother me a bit, but we’ ll see in the fu­ture.”

Her de­par­ture from Aoib­hin says, was partly to do with John and hav­ing more time for their re­la­tion­ship, but she also had itchy feet, pro­fes­sion­ally.

“I’m not the kind of per­son who likes to be boxed-in,” Aoib­hin ex­plains. “You know: ‘That’s who you are and that’s what you do and that’s that’. And John’s like that, too. We like projects and we like chal­lenges, and we like to try all kinds of dif­fer­ent things.”

Leav­ing the RTE soap, which was a reg­u­lar, rel­a­tively re­li­able job with a de­cent pro­file — a cov­etable po­si­tion for any ac­tor — was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Aoib­hin. She won’t say that it was a wake-up call, be­cause she’s not given to neg­a­tiv­ity, but there were mo­ments when she won­dered where things were go­ing to go for her.

“Things prob­a­bly didn’t hap­pen as quickly as I’d hoped,” says Aoib­hin. “It wasn’t quite naivete. I sup­pose I knew that act­ing isn’t a bed of roses, but you hope that you will be the one to break the mould.”

Jobs that she loved fol­lowed, in­clud­ing

Danc­ing With The Stars, Fair City,

‘In col­lege, we all looked to Ruth Negga as the hero. She had a hunger for it and she wanted it. That’s what it takes’

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